Business award salutes processor ACC’s three year business transition

Beef Central, 23/10/2023

A MAJOR change of direction by Australia’s largest family-run beef supply chain saw Australian Country Choice recognised at the Lord Mayor of Brisbane’s Business Awards held on Friday night.

The Queensland-based company was saluted for its operational transformation that included a shift to a multi-client customer base, a move towards premium Wagyu and Angus cattle and the launch of its own-branded export product – all amid the backflow of COVID, changes of senior leadership and a volatile international marketplace.

Celebrating Friday night’s, Anthony and Trevor Lee, left and right, with Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner. Click on image for a larger view

Beef Central first wrote about ACC’s evolving business model in this story published back in late 2020. The company moved from having a single dedicated processing customer, Coles Supermarkets, to its present day, much more diversified operations model.

“In three years we had to change our business completely,” chief executive officer Anthony Lee said.

“When you think about the scale of our challenge and what we’ve had to do, it has been a massive effort from our staff.”

The changes required involved every part of ACC’s supply chain, including major technological and operational upgrades at the plant itself.

The shift to premium Wagyu and Angus export cattle saw bigger-bodied animals joining the product mix and a multiple of customers, required a $50 million processing plant retro-fit and many millions of dollars towards retro-fitting the feedlots and changing ACC’s herd genetics.

All of this was completed in 2023 with no disruption to production.

The facility retro-fit was coupled with a major technology upgrade using Australian-developed processing automation.

“In the three months to May, 2022 we did not produce or sell any own-brand meat products, whereas, in contrast, in the three months to May, 2023, we exported more than 3.3 million kilograms of beef products to 17 new export markets,” Mr Lee told Friday night’s awards gathering.

The transition was achieved amid the backflow of COVID, and a volatile international marketplace that included suspension from the plant’s single biggest market, China.

Released from a 40-year exclusivity deal with service kill processing customer Coles gave ACC a chance to review its business operations and seek exciting opportunities to export its own-branded product.

“We had to differentiate our product, known as 1620 Beef, from that of ongoing service-processing customers – most of whom are also exporters. To do this we established a niche product defined by the length of time the cattle are on feed,” Mr Lee said.

Now, about 30 percent of cattle processed at ACC Cannon Hill go into the company’s own brand program. The balance is used by large export and domestic service kill customers, including Woolworths and branded Wagyu beef chains.

Anthony Lee addressing Friday’s awards gathering in Brisbane

“Establishment of key markets in Indonesia, Korea and Japan have underpinned our export growth. Sales by value to those countries lifted by 242pc, 291pc and 253pc respectively between financial years 2020/21 and 2022/23,” Mr Lee said.

“And it hasn’t just been a change of customer base and physical assets, we have also changed our systems, bringing in new ERP and BI platforms required for a more complex business model.”

“While it has been challenging, it has also been a very positive change,” he said.

“Nothing lasts forever, and any business must be robust and nimble enough to pivot when required. The change has made us focus on every facet of our business and ensure it is set up appropriately.

“It’s been a good health check. We’ve had to tender and win every new customer; it’s been very pleasing to know we can compete against anyone in our industry.”

This morning Mr Lee addressed the staff at the Cannon Hill processing plant saying: “I know it’s been a lot of pain and angst however this award reinforces just what a huge change it has been for the team – not just one person, not just one department, but it’s the whole team at ACC.”








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